Hamden Hall Country Day School

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Familiar Characters Traverse Stage In Middle School Production

Audience members attending this weekend’s Middle School musical, A Connecticut Yankee in Outer Space, may be surprised to hear some of the names of the characters – hint: do the names Bob Izzo, Brian Christman, and Beth Richter ring a bell?!

Apparently, it all began during the beginning stages of the theater project.

“When I began discussing this project with several of our Upper School students who were interested in helping to revise the script and write new music and lyrics, it quickly became more exciting with each meeting, especially after we decided to name the characters after teachers and administrators,” explained the show’s director, theater teacher Karl Gasteyer.

From there, students began to assign personality traits that emulated the teacher or administrator for whom the character is named. In some cases, said Mr. Gasteyer, the student-created character traits are completely the opposite of the person named.

The “side-splitting, farcical sci-fi musical comedy” goes on the road – stage – this weekend: Friday, Dec. 7, and Saturday, Dec. 8, both at 7 p.m. in the Taylor Performing Arts Center. Thirty Middle School students make up the performance cast as enhanced by nine Upper School students behind the scenes, who are assisting with everything from performance and tech technique to choreography, scenery, and more.

Loosely affiliated with Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, the musical has had several incarnations since first being conceived and written by Mr. Gasteyer years ago. At one point, Mr. Gasteyer teamed with choral director Matt Harrison for a rewrite and then last spring, at Hamden Hall, Mr. Gasteyer introduced the script to a writing team of Upper School students in order to revamp the production for the Middle School’s 2018 musical.

“There are new compositions by Sophia Lawder-Gill (Class of 2018), John Carlo Letizia, Chavon Patterson, Kirsten Mettler, Ronnie Khanuja, and Vedica Chopra. Also dialogue and narrative rewrites with Orly Richter, Julia Moore-Aiello, and Michael Lee. The cast is also adding its input as we rehearse and flesh out characters. So in short, it’s a continuing group-writing effort,” said Mr. Gasteyer.

The musical follows the adventures of scientist Dr. Charles Alexander (does that name ring a bell?!) and his assistants. As the name of the show suggests, audiences will be introduced to aliens as well as hillbillies, who become curious about the research scientists are engaged with in the lab.

“In the course of the show, all three groups find themselves discovering secrets that they never expected and forming relationships that none of them could have predicted,” explained script collaborator and backstage manager Orly Richter.
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